During Term 2 of 2018, I launched a KHA (Kids Hope Australia) initiative, which involved building a bridge with the local Belmont State School. KHA is a mentoring program for school kids from underprivileged backgrounds that requests one church to partner with one school for one year, during which time one mentor meets with one mentee for one hour each week.
In response to the financial, physical and emotional struggle of one particular mentee’s family, St Gabriel’s developed a Parish Pantry with donated goods from the parishioners, the local bakery and the local butcher. This compassionate outreach provided the family with not only sufficient food, but emotional food too! This is the final text message that the struggling mum of three kids sent before she bravely fled interstate from a violent relationship:
“Just wanted to check in and let you know we are all well and safe. I didn’t really share my story. In two years, the only time I left the house apart from shopping and kids, was to go to your Church. You radiate warmth and energy and reminded me of who I was, not the shell that was left. The generosity and kindness of everyone reminded me of the beauty in this world and the people in it. Please thank all the lovely ladies for me and let them know their kindness awoke my mind from darkness and gave me courage. Forever grateful. The only regret I have is leaving behind the beautiful souls that saved us! Xx”
Being able to assist in ways we weren’t fully aware has been such a privilege and honour. God goes before us. He sees what we can’t. It’s simply our job to follow His plan and be a part of the healing and reconciliation this world needs. We can all make a difference together.
Subsequently, Belmont State School chose to donate their annual Christmas tree gifts to St Gabriel’s rather than to the usual Salvation Army Charity, based on the KHA work the six mentors had done for the previous six months. School families kindly wrapped and labelled 200 presents for kids from one- to 14-years of age and presented them to us at their last school assembly. This is a fantastic church and school partnership and we are currently developing ideas of running a playgroup in 2019.
Twenty of these gifts were then delivered to Zig Zag – a local shelter that houses females who are survivors of sexual assault or homeless and aged between 12 and 25. They have 20 kids under five that gladly received these presents for their young ones. We don’t have direct access to the survivors due to confidentiality reasons, but they gratefully receive annual Christmas gift packs and Easter hot cross buns donated from our Church, which is always acknowledged by an appreciation certificate.
The remaining 180 gifts, plus food hampers donated from St Gabriel’s, were distributed via Anglicare through Fundraising and Events Officer Tiffany Berg, who ensured that the various needs were met within the Diocese.
This Christmas initiative only happened because everyone involved decided to think beyond themselves. From the school parents who bought and wrapped the gifts, to the mentors who freely gave one hour per week every week for six months, and to the Zig Zag and Anglicare staff that display commitment to help those at a disadvantage, I thank you!
When each person decides to do one thing, the world changes. Let’s keep changing the world, one person at a time!
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